Published on December 17th, 2017 | by Debbie Zhou
Wonder – Film Review
Reviewed by Debbie Zhou on the 15th of December 2017
Roadshow presents a film by Stephen Chbosky
Producers: Michael Beugg, Dan Clark, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs
Written by Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky
Music by Marcelo Zarvos
Cinematography by Don Burgess
Edited by Mark Livolsi
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date: the 30th of November 2017
Wonder is a sweet, heartfelt drama that touches upon the essentiality of family support and overcoming the struggle for acceptance.
In many ways, August Pullman, nicknamed “Auggie”, has everything going for him as a normal fifth-grader. He has a loving family, loves Star Wars, dreams about becoming an astronaut and he’s about to start junior high school.
But what makes him not-so-ordinary is that he doesn’t look like his peers. A rare facial deformity has left him with multiple facial reconstructions, causing him to become isolated from those outside his family. In Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder, Auggie steps into the ‘real world’, away from his father Nate (Owen Wilson) and the home-schooling by his mother, Isabel (an affecting performance from Julia Roberts), and into what lies within and beyond the boundaries of the school playground.
It’s a lot to demand from a ten-year old, and Auggie’s first time being separated from his family exposes him to overwhelming, but inevitable judgment—the staring, the misunderstanding from his classmates. A snobby kid, Julian (Bryce Gheisar), becomes the trademark bully, challenging his intelligence and overtly pointing out Auggie’s differences; it’s not an easy journey for Auggie. Not only are the rumours nasty, but they play into the suggestion that Auggie’s unconventional appearance somehow diminishes his inner personality. The hurtful effects of bullying are on full display, and Auggie’s desire for acceptance and genuine friendships make this difficult process an even more lamentable one.
Like in Jacob Tremblay’s powerful debut performance in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2015), Auggie’s first-person narration emerges as the centrality of the film, and Chbosky recognises how Tremblay’s soft-toned, yet childish higher-pitched intonation tugs the heartstrings. Tremblay shapes the innocence of Auggie’s own world, delivering lines of surprising, astute humour (the screenplay is by Chbosky himself, Jack Thorne, and Steve Conrad), alongside his frustrated tantrums. Auggie’s imagination is also let loose in endearing alternative scenarios, which sees himself envisioning himself as an astronaut, and recruiting Chewbacca as his ally at school to face his bullies – the delicate handling of his naïve outlook saves the film from becoming overly manipulative.
Wonder’s real surprise is how it offers a glimpse into its other characters beyond Auggie. As Via (Auggie’s sister, played by Izabela Vidovic) puts it – Auggie is the sun, and everyone else are planets orbiting around it. However, Chbosky strays away from a sole focus on his leading character, zeroing into the inner thoughts of others by digging into their own lives. Isobel is trying to restart her PhD career again, Via is attempting to navigate the betrayal of her best friend, and Auggie’s best friend, Jack Will, faces the pressure of his sports scholarship. The flickering of perspectives fuses an understanding of Auggie’s support system, making them full-fledged people who also assist him in tackling his own battle of self-discovery.
While the film sinks into clichés occasionally, and there are very few surprises in store, Wonder’s performances and story structure serve as a touching sentiment about kindness, reminding profoundly of the necessity to see people for who they truly are.
Summary: While the film sinks into clichés occasionally, and there are very few surprises in store, Wonder’s performances and story structure serve as a touching sentiment about kindness.